Real-time cytotoxicity assays in human whole blood

J Vis Exp. 2014 Nov 7;(93):e51941. doi: 10.3791/51941.


A live cell-based whole blood cytotoxicity assay (WCA) that allows access to temporal information of the overall cell cytotoxicity is developed with high-throughput cell positioning technology. The targeted tumor cell populations are first preprogrammed to immobilization into an array format, and labeled with green fluorescent cytosolic dyes. Following the cell array formation, antibody drugs are added in combination with human whole blood. Propidium iodide (PI) is then added to assess cell death. The cell array is analyzed with an automatic imaging system. While cytosolic dye labels the targeted tumor cell populations, PI labels the dead tumor cell populations. Thus, the percentage of target cancer cell killing can be quantified by calculating the number of surviving targeted cells to the number of dead targeted cells. With this method, researchers are able to access time-dependent and dose-dependent cell cytotoxicity information. Remarkably, no hazardous radiochemicals are used. The WCA presented here has been tested with lymphoma, leukemia, and solid tumor cell lines. Therefore, WCA allows researchers to assess drug efficacy in a highly relevant ex vivo condition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies / immunology
  • Antigens, CD20 / immunology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Blood
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cells, Immobilized
  • Cytotoxicity Tests, Immunologic / methods
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor / methods*
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays / methods*
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma / drug therapy
  • Lymphoma / pathology
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Propidium / chemistry


  • Antibodies
  • Antigens, CD20
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Propidium